Aristophanes’ Wasps and Euripides’ Heracles

Madness on the comic stage: Aristophanes’ Wasps and Euripides’ Heracles

Beta, Simone

(Proquest Information & Learning: Greek text omitted)

ARISTOPHANES’ WAS ends in a highly unusual way. So far as we know, the final scene is a unicum in Greek comic production: one of the main characters of the play, the old juror Philocleon, is portrayed as completely crazy and out of control.1 Philocleon’s folly has something in common with the madness that blinds Heracles in the famous Euripidean tragedy; moreover, the juror’s insanity is a theme that runs through the whole comedy. May we suspect then that there is a connection between Aristophanes’ Wasps and Euripides’ Heracles? The aim of this paper is to underscore the similarities between the two plays and-with due caution-to put forward a hypothesis that could explain this resemblance.

1. Madness as theme of the comedy

natural result of intoxication for a Greek.”6 This is true, of course, but there is more here: since music was a very important feature of the Corybantic treatment, the mention of a flute is not only a sign of a “festive occasion.” E. R. Dodds observed that “flutes and tympana” were to the Greeks “the ‘orgiastic’ instruments par excellence: they were used in all the great dancing cults, those of the Asiatic Cybele and the Cretan Rhea as well as that of Dionysus. They could cause madness, and in homoeopathic doses they could also cure it.”7 We have a flute here, exactly as we had a tympanon in 119.

This is the last direct allusion to madness in the play. When Philocleon issues a dancing challenge, three dancers, the sons of Carcinos, enter in response to his call; when the four of them lead the chorus out, the comedy ends. “Dance” is the key-word of this exodus: the chorus joins the actors and claims that “this is something that nobody has ever seen before, a comic chorus going out of the stage while dancing” (1536-1537).

So far the resemblances. But there is a noteworthy difference between the two plays: we see “Philocleon mainomenos” on the stage, but we do not see Heracles. In keeping with the usual conventions that governed Greek drama, in this Euripidean tragedy the terrible murders committed by the hero are not shown on stage: Heracles’ folly is anticipated by Lyssa’s words, is seen and imagined in the chorus’ words, and finally is narrated by the herald. 13 We do not see the raging Heracles on the stage, with his bow and his club; we have a thorough description of his madness instead, and some important details (the sound of a flute, the swift movement of his feet, the bellowing that makes him like a dying bull) tally with the comic madness of Philocleon. I return to this problem below.

3. Other similarities

Analysis of these two “madness scenes” shows that the plays might be connected; but there are other interesting similarities between Aristophanes’ comedy and Euripides’ tragedy.

A “Lycus” appears in both texts, as a living character in Euripides and as a statue in Aristophanes; but in both cases this presence is not without problems.

In the Euripidean tragedy Lycus is Heracles’ rival, the man who tries to usurp his throne and is killed by the hero; he is not mentioned in any independent source, and every other reference to him depends on Euripides.16

MacDowell’s hypothesis is more acute and detailed: Bdelycleon points to the altar that stands in front of the house, beckons to one of the slaves who have been arranging the equipment, and makes him sit on the altar; when Philocleon falls in reverence before the altar, Bdelycleon compares the slave (“who is presumably very fat, that is grotesquely padded”) to Cleonymus.22 He proposes then a different explanation of the

There might be another allusion in 823, a reference to the … that had been the topic of debate between Lycus and Amphitryon. The “thing” indicated by Bdelycleon at 820, be it a picture, a statue, or a dressed-up slave, which looked so like Cleonymus, had of course no kind of weapon (in the case, no shield): this is not surprising if we think of Cleonymus, famous for throwing away the shield. But if we think of the Euripidean Lycus, who had made such a fuss about weapons and blamed Heracles for lacking a shield, his being without arms-namely the weapon that, together with the spear, was so typical of the hoplite-might well explain Philocleon’s surprise.

3.3 Paratragic passages

4. The date of Heracles

Such are the plausible similarities between the two plays. At this point, the logical inference would be that with his Wasps Aristophanes has parodied Euripides’ Heracles. But we know that the comedy was produced in 422 B.C., whereas the tragedy is thought to have been composed around 415. This invites a new inquiry about the date of Heracles.

4.1. The metrical evidence

The most reliable guide is the metrical evidence. According to the study of Zielinski as revised by Ceadel, the proportion of resolved trimeters of iambic dialogue for Heracles is 21.5 %, a figure which is very close to the 21.2 % of Troades. This is why Bond indicates 416 and 414 as “both possible.”28

Is it possible to assign the tragedy an earlier date? If these metrical features point to a late period of Euripides’ career, other kinds of evidence, based on historical events, may point earlier; moreover, we have a Ptolemaic papyrus which may imply another edition of the tragedy, probably older than the one we have.

4.2 The historical evidence

Wilamowitz devoted a good number of pages to the analysis of the “Anspielungen auf zeitgenossische Zustande and Ereignisse” and concluded that the tragedy was composed between the Suppliants and the Trojan Women.29 Bond briefly discusses these allusions and finds them “unconvincing”-with good reason: the so-called “serious theme,” the Dorian side of the hero, the connection between the debate on archery and the victory at Sphacteria, the references to the swans and the cult of Apollo at Delos, all these alleged contemporary references are admittedly weak, although they might at least suggest that the plot of the tragedy was planned during the first part of the Peloponnesian war.30

There is still another historical reference, not mentioned by Bond. Leon Parmentier pointed to another event that might help date the play soon after 426 B.c. Euripides does not mention the death of the hero on the Mt Oeta, and Parmentier connected this silence to the foundation of the new Spartan city of Heracleia near the old Trachis: the tragic poet ignores the legend of Oeta because he vindicates for Athens the hero who had just given his name to the Doric town.31

Wilamowitz, who thought the fragment very well fit for a discussion about Macaria’s sacrifice; but Luppe is surely right that there is no need for such a correction, and so the fragment may attest another version of Heracles.37

Luppe concluded that P.Hibeh 179 is a “Zweitfassung” of the Euripidean Heracles, a substantially different version of the whole play, perhaps “die Umarbeitung einer Tragodie durch denselben Dichter zum Zweck einer erneuten Auffuhrung.” He admitted that it is not easy to say whether the version handed down to us by the mediaeval manuscripts was the first or the second one, but preferred the second hypothesis. The papyrus version would then be the first, original version, and the Laurentianus the second, corrected version, composed by the poet with a view to a second performance.

5. Two versions of Euripides’ tragedy

If Luppe’s deduction is correct, the existence of two different Heracles may explain how there can be so many resemblances between Philocleon’s madness and Heracles’, and also why so many passages in Aristophanes’ comedy seem to be based on Euripides’ tragedy. Aristophanes can have written his comedy after the first version of Euripides’ Heracles, performed before 422 B.C. and different from the one we possess; the second version of Heracles can have been written some years afterwards, and this would explain why the metrical features of the Laurentianus version point to a later date.

We may ask then what reasons might have led Euripides to write a second version of his play. Let us turn to Philocleon and to the “madness scene” again. The final scene of Wasps shows a man in a fit of madness; before the eyes of a slave-and before the eyes of the Athenians who were sitting in the theatre-the man starts to behave insanely and begins to dance. In Euripides’ tragedy, the dialogue between Iris and Lyssa describes the madness of Heracles; the chorus of old Thebans expresses their sorrow for the fate of the hero; the messenger tells all the details of Heracles’ crazy behaviour-but no one sees him during his access of furious rage. What the audience sees in Aristophanes’ comedy had not been seen in Euripides’ tragedy-at least if the Heracles that had been performed before Wasps was the Heracles the mediaeval manuscripts have handed down to us.

But what if we suppose that a Heracles performed around 423 B.C. was different from the one we know? What if, in that Heracles, the madness of the hero was shown on the stage, and Heracles killed Megara and his sons before the very eyes of the audience?

5.1 Seneca’s Hercules

We do have an ancient drama in which Heracles’ madness is not described post eventum by a messenger, Seneca’s Hercules in Rome in the first century A.D. In the fourth act, “rather than having the mad-scene reported as in Euripides, Seneca brings it onstage as far as possible, though the murders themselves take place offstage.”39

It seems then that Seneca has made explicit what Euripides had left implicit. But are we sure that the description of Heracles’ madness in the first Euripidean tragedy was merely implicit?

6. Conclusion

Here is the hypothesis I put forward-deeply aware of its being a simple hypothesis. In the years 425-423 Euripides stages a play based on the figure of Heracles. This tragedy is similar to the one we owe to the mediaeval manuscripts; the differences between the two plays are witnessed by the papyrus fragments and the two Stobaeus quotations. In this older tragedy was something that was felt to be very disturbing: not only was Heracles, one of the most famous and beloved Greek heroes, so maddened as to kill his wife and sons, but this terrible massacre was shown on the stage and seen by the audience.

The tragedy is shocking to the Athenians. In 422 Aristophanes produces his Wasps, a comedy where the protagonist is an old juror, a maniac for trials, portrayed at the end of the play as a madman who behaves in a way that evokes the mainomenos Heracles of Euripides. The comedy is filled with allusions to that tragedy: paratragic quotations, jokes on the freshly invented character of Lycus, and echoes throughout of Heracles’ wrath and madness.

A few years after that first attempt, Euripides produces a second play on the same theme. This is not a novelty for him, for in 428 he had rewritten his Hippolytus: the first version, the “Veiled Hippolytus,” had been accused of being unbecoming and reprehensible, and so the poet had changed and amended it; the second version, the “Crowned Hippolytus,” had even been awarded first prize.

With this second Heracles Euripides perhaps hoped to repeat the success of his second Hippolytus. But this is unknown; on this play we do not have scholia or even a complete argument, only an incomplete summary of the events that preceded the beginning of the play. This second Heracles has been saved by the Laurentianus; the first Heracles was lost, apart from a few scraps of an Egyptian papyrus and a couple of questionable quotations. But, before disappearing, it has left some traces in a comedy of Aristophanes (probably), in a tragedy of Seneca (possibly), in a bravura of Philostratus (possibly). Before falling into the oblivion that has swallowed most classical literature, this furious, tragic Heracles at least succeeded in giving birth to the manic, comic Philocleon.45

November, 2000

The University of Siena

1 The ending has often been considered a puzzle ever since Wilamowitz: “Ueber die Wes pen des Aristophanes,” SBBerI 4 (1911) 460-491, 504-535 (KI. Schr. I 284-346 D. Konstan, “The Politics of Aristophanes, Was s,” TAPA 115 (1985) 27-46 (cf. Greek Comedy and Ideology [New York/Oxford 1995]), and S. Douglas Olson, “Politics and Poetry in Aristophanes’ Wasps,” TAPA 126 (1996) 129-150, underline the strong political content of the play; Guido Paduano, II giudice giudicato: le fu del comico nelle Vespe di Aristofane (Bologna 1974), dem los Psychoanalysis; A. M. Bowie, Aristophanes. Myth, Ritual and Comed (Cambridge 1993), emphasizes the patterns of ephebeia in reverse; J. Vaio, ‘Aristo hanes Wasps: the Relevance of the Final Scenes,” GRBS 12 (1971) 335-351,K.J. Reckford, “Catharsis and Dream-Interpretation in Aristophanes’ Wasps,” TAPA 107 (1977) 283-312 (cf. Aristophanes’ Old-and-New Comedy [Chapel Hill 1987]), and K. Sidwell, “Was Philokleon Cured? The NO(Zeta)O(Zeta) Theme in Aristophanes’ Wasps,” CIMed 41 (1990) 9-31, focus on Philocleon’s character and his “sickness.”

2D. M. MacDowell, Aristophanes, Wasps (Oxford 1971: hereafter MAcDowELL, whose Greek text is used here). Applied to women at Ar. Lys. 476-477; for another metaphorical use of the word see Cratinus fr.251 K.-A.

30n both passages see A. H. Sommerstein’s commentaries (Aristophanes, Wasps [Warminster 1983]; Aeschylus Eumenides [Cambridge 1989]). On the etymology of … see Pausanias 8.25.6, who connects their name with an Arcadian usage . “to be angry,” … .

4K. J. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley/Los Angeles 1972) 122.

5The English translation of these lines (1474-1479) is taken from Sommer stein’s edition.

6MacDowell ad loc., quoting Starkie’s note as to dancing and intoxication (Aristophanes, Wasps, ed. W. J. M. Starkie [London 1897]).

7E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley/Los Angeles 1951) 273; see also 97 n.95.

8For a similar joke see Av. 524-525.

9The translations of this and of the following passages are taken from D, Kovacs, Euripides, Suppliant Women, Electra, Heracles (Cambridge [Mass.]/ London 1998). I use the Greek text of G. W. Bond, Euripides, Heracles (Oxford 1981: hereafter BOND).

10Bond ad loc.: “it is natural for a madman to bellow,” citing another Aristophanic passage (Ran. 562-563) together with Philocleon’s dance.

11The text of L at 878-879 is … (“dancing at the crazy sound of Lyssa’s flutes”); Diggle follows Hermann’s suggestion (…).

12This “stone” was likely a typically Euripidean invention, for Pausanias explicitly says that the intervention of the goddess was not narrated by any other poet (9.11.2).

13 Usually murders were not shown on the stage: see Arist. Poet. 1453b and Hor. Ars P. 179ff, with the commentary of C. O. Brink (Cambridge 1971).

14The scholiast speaks of a … Scholia in Aristophanem IIA, ed. W. J. W. Koster (Groningen 1978) 164. In his commentary (Halle 1893), Blaydes uses the Latin equivalent “animism.”

15 Anger is one of the most characteristic features of the chorus of old jurors; it is designated by both … (567, 649) and opA (243, 560, 574, 646, 727, 883).

16 Wilamowitz, Herakles2 (Berlin 1895) 1360, already suspected that Lycus was a Euripidean invention; see Bond’s note on 31. In the prologue Amphi on connects this Lycus with an older one, who had a real place in the Than legend (26-34).

17Bond xxxii and 109. Some scholars however have tried to justify its presence; see R. Hamilton, “Slings and Arrows: The Debate with Lycus in the Heracles,” TAPA 115 (1985) 19-25, with bibliography.

1866 Koster: …

19Cf. A. L. Boegehold, The Athenian Agora XXVIII The Lawcourts at Athens (Princeton 1995) 95, 188-191.

20Boegehold (supra n.19) 188, and “Philokleon’s Court,” Hesperia 36 (1967) 111-120.

21 130-131 Koster. On Cleoymus’ … , see I. C. Storey, “The `Blameless Shield’ of Kleonymus,” RhM 132 (1989) 247-261.

22Starkie thinks of a real statue instead and, following the scholia, explains the fact that the statue does not carry arms as an “inevitable joke on Cleonymus’s shield.” Sommerstein follows MacDowell but thinks that “the slave may have stood beside the altar rather than sat on it.”

23 Cf. J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse2 (Oxford 1991) 123 and n.83.

24P. Rau, Paratragodia: Untersuchungen zu einer komischen Form des Aristophanes (Munich 1967) 192.

25 L has … , printed by Murray; most editors prefer Musgrave’s emendation … .

26The connection had been noticed by Blaydes as well (“Una cum … occurrit [sc. …} Herc. fur. 80”), but he guessed that the quotation might come from another Euripidean tragedy, the lost Theseus, to which the scholiast attributes 312-313 (fr.385 N.2).

27E. Delebecque, Euripide et la guerre du Peloponnese (Paris 1951) 131: “11 y a peut-etre dans les Guepes (230-48) une parodie de Fantistrophe d’un choeur dHeracles (119-29).”

28 Surveyed by Bond xxx-xxxi. He mentions two other metrical features, the use of trochaic tetrameters and “enoplian” dochmiacs, both characteristic of Euripides’ latest plays; but dochmiacs are found in the Andromache as well, which is considered one of the earliest Euripidean plays (T. B. L. Webster, The Tragedies of Euripides [London 1967] 118, dates it “after 428 and before 424”).

29 Wilamowitz (supra n.16) 11 135 and 139.

30 For the “serious theme,” see Wilamowitz (supra n.16) 11 132ff; for “Heracles the Dorian,” Schmid-Stahlin 1437 (“Der Ansatz kurz vor oder nach 421 hat am meisten Wahrscheinlichkeit”); for the archery debate, G. H. Macurdy, The Chronology of the Extant Plays of Euripides (Lancaster 1905) 57-58 (“This very probable argument gives 424 B.C. as the earliest terminus post quem for the play’), and R. Goossens Euripide et Athenes (Brussels 1962) 370 n.1 (“La date de 424 [peut-etre avec l’HecubaI pliant done etre consideree comme a peu pres certain assez for the Delian maidens, see Euripide, Heracles, Les Suppliants, Ion, menti n o)eu s C. et on conqoit mier and H. Gregoire (Paris 1959) 13 (“L’indice n’est pas sans valeur; on peut constater un moment oil le contexte n’appelle que d’une con assez forcee la mention delle”). As o this choeurs deliens, et theme, Bond himself admits that mieux qu’Euripide fait recherchee s’il ences to the swans and the cult ou la Apollo “are probably connected with importance nouvelle”). As to the events which followed theme, Bond himself admits that the ‘ n urification of Delos in 426/5 B.C.,” but as similar references to the swans and the cult of Apollo “are probably connected with concludes that “there is no reason why the events which followed the Athenian purification of that yelos in 426/5 should be fresh but as similar references can be found in late mind of Euripidean tragedies or his audience.” 31Parmentier (supra n.30) 15: “Ces that “there is no reason why the events of that year should bien donne fresh motif d’actualitd au soin the mind of Euripides or his audience.”

3IParmentier (supra n.30) 15: “Ces circumstances pourraient bien donner son nom A l’H6racl6e dorienne, il le revendiquer un motif d’ardiment pour Atuanes; c’est IA qu’il au son den-Lier asile et que met Euripide a ignorer la lcgende de l’Oeta. Le heros qui vient de donner son nom antiques sanctuaires, les v6ritables Heraclee dorienne, il le revendique hardiment pour Athenes; c’est la qu’il a trouve son dernier asile et que sont eriges ses antiques sanctuaires, les veritables Heracleia.”

35Further comments by J. Diggle, “P. Hibeh 179 and the Heracles of Euripides,” ZPE 24 (1977) 291-294 (= Euripidea. Collected Essays [Oxford 1994 171-175); W. Luppe, “Ein weiteres Indiz fur eine ‘Zweitfassung’ des Euripideischen ‘Herakles’?” ZPE 26 (1977) 59-73; M. Cropp, “The Text of Euripides’ Herakles in P. Hibeh 179,” ZPE 48 (1982) 67-73; 0. Musso, “Un nuovo papiro di Euripide e conseguenze critico-testuali,” Prometeo 9 (1983) 49-56.

36 W. Luppe, “Zum ‘Herakles’-Papyrus P. Hibeh 179,” ZPE 95 (1993) 59-64.

37This sentence would fit in the first episode (281ff) of Euripides’ Heracles, as Luppe suggests.

38 Bond (402) argues that “Stobaeus’ verbose version probably originated with the error … ,” for … with a line “added to supply an object.”

39J. G. Fitch, Seneca, Hercules furens (Ithaca/London 1987) 46.

40 See A. Windell, Etudes sur les tragedies de Seneque invitees d’Euripide (Paris 1854); F. Leo, Observationes criticae I (Berlin 1879) 160-183; Seneque, Tragedies, ed. L. Herrmann (Paris 1924-26) 259; L. Castiglioni, “La tragedia di Ercole in Euripide e in Seneca,” RivFil 54 (1926) 176-197 and 336-362; J. A. Shelton, Seneca’s Hercules Furens. Theme, Structure and Style (Gottingen 1978); R. J. Tarrant, “Senecan Drama and its Antecedents,” HSCP 82 (1978) 213-263; Seneca, 11 furore di Ercole, ed. F. Caviglia (Roma 1979) 13-83; T. Diaconescu and A. Mizau, Euripide si Seneca (Bucharest 1980); Seneca, Teatro I, ed. G. Viansino (Milan 1993) 87-125; Seneca, Hercules Furens, ed. M. Billerbeck (Leiden/Boston/Cologne 1999) 11-24.

41Fitch (supra n.39) 47. At 50 n.74 he lists the passages “where Seneca’s writing comes particularly close to Euripides”‘; other passages are quoted by Leo (supra n.40: 161 n.3), Viansino (222-245), and Billerbeck (18-20). According to Fitch these sources would be either Hellenistic tragedies or Roman poets such as Ennius.

42See also Fitch (supra n.39) 350: “Basically, Act IV represents a translation into stage action of the Euripidean messenger speech describing Hercules’ madness and the murder of his family.”

43Caviglia (supra n.40) 52: “Fra … del teatro di Euripides a not pervenuti e questo il pitt fitto di personaggi, di ‘battute’, di movimento

scenico.” The text of the Greek play is full of real stage-directions (see Fitcl [supra n.391 351 and Billerbeck [supra n.40] 20).

44Transl. A. Fairbanks (Cambridge [Mass.]/London 1931).

45 I am grateful to Kent Rigsby for assistance with the English of this paper.

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